Extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir will be Israel’s next national security minister, prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party confirmed yesterday.
The long-rumoured appointment would mark a further shift to the explicitly racist right by the Israeli government, with Mr Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party demanding the introduction of the death penalty for Palestinians and immunity for Israeli soldiers or police who fire on Palestinians.
Palestine’s Foreign Ministry warned that Mr Ben-Gvir’s appointment could have “catastrophic” consequences, saying it would see “settler armed militias and their terrorist attacks begin to take on a collective and organised character.”
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz himself warned that Mr Ben-Gvir would use Israeli border guards in the West Bank as a “private army” if given authority over them.
Yesterday morning Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem woke to find burnt-out cars on the streets and graffiti scrawled on the walls of the Abu Ghosh and Ain Nakuba neighbourhoods including racist attacks on Arabs and the “price tag” slogan in Hebrew, a phrase frequently used by fundamentalist settler gangs carrying out attacks on Palestinians.
Continuing negotiations between Likud and three other far-right and ultra-Orthodox potential coalition partners suggest Mr Netanyahu will head the most right-wing administration in Israeli history.
The rightward shift was marked in a poll by Israel’s Institute for Democracy that found 71 per cent of respondents backed the death penalty for Palestinians, up from 63 per cent four years ago, and 45.4 per cent approved the bombardment of Palestinian population centres in response to “provocation” by Palestinian groups, up from 27.5 per cent.
A former member of the banned Kahane Chai terrorist group, Mr Ben-Gvir studied law to defend himself as he was so often in court for inciting racial hatred as a young man, specialising in defence of Israeli settlers charged with violence against Palestinians — most notoriously in the case of a 2015 firebombing of a West Bank home that killed an 18-month-old toddler and his parents.
His recent stunts include brandishing a gun at Palestinians trying to stop the demolition of their homes in the Sheikh Jarrar neighbourhood, after which he posted photos online of his children carrying toy guns, saying he was training them on how to deal with “terrorists.”